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when did you first get to be interested in martin luther king? >> guest: when i was in high school as a young fellow growing up in atlanta georgia
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my parents didn't have an answer. it became kind of a quest to find out about it in the sense that there was enormous power and that would change the direction of my life. when i wasn't looking for it to happen. c-span: how many of your years did you think about this? >> guest: i started after i got into a book career in the late 70's after magazine journalism. i wanted to write about this period because i hadn't answered the question what is it made of and i thought in 1981 with what was proposed to be a three year history of the teen years and it's now been 16 years and i've done it in two volumes is now projected to be a trilogy or will be a trilogy after i finish it but i would have 20 years.
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definitely turning into my life work but i'm thankful for the privilege of it. c-span: the first book, parting the waters, 1,056 pages. this but there are 546 pages. what's been your approach? >> guest: to do it in storytelling. one of the reasons i wanted to do it is i knew this had an enormous impact like the construction period in the years before but most of the books that i read seemed to be analytical and argumentative, reinventing new labels, and i felt that they didn't have the power to really describe what happened at the personal level which is where i think that we learn about the divisions we have so i resolved from some lessons out of my experience i wanted to keep it at a
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storytelling level and follow the stories wherever they went. i just didn't know there were going to be so many of them from such broader context from the relationship with abraham or something. these are things that i didn't have a way of anticipating so i just kind of -- i followed storytelling but it tumbled me get into more work than i plan on. c-span: i counted 27 different fbi files the you've gotten into in the back that you list. what value have they been to this book and how would they be different, how would the book be different? >> guest: i think they are good primary material part and the invasive wiretaps ra biographical material, and there are many files there but these are the ones in which the basic primary material and fbi material gathered at the ground
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level tends to be i think very reliable on the people that have been wiretapped like clarence jones who show in these conversations. when it get massaged through the headquarters and put to political use the materials to get distorted but there is nothing better than a verbatim wiretap transfer of somebody's telephone life. that's very revealing and often were showing quite the opposite character of the wiretaps are premised on in the and in fact what you will get is somebody talking about going to jail in the freedom movement and quite the noble character. c-span: how hard is it to get them? >> guest: not hard to get they are in the fbi reading room not far from here in the hoover
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building. they are on the basement of a windowless room and you have to read them under supervision and you can't leave to go to the bathroom without an escort. you can't leave the building without taking on half an hour more going one way to another so after time, i built up discipline to go in at 8:30 in the morning and take no break for bathroom going through the documents enough because usually there is a lot that is played in and a lot of valuable stuff and look at a dhaka at long enough to know if you want to copy it or not. c-span: and you can copy it? >> guest: you can copy them. on the non-wires of material believe it or not they have fewer deletions than the more political ones that are trying to make political use out of it. i think that is material that is redacted and blocked out. some of them are heavily redacted. generally to disguise the political views being made of them. c-span: can you ever listen to them if you want to? >> guest: they have none. they have no tapes like that. c-span: they are gone?
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>> guest: they are gone. they don't exist. sometimes there are police recordings. ralph abernathy's famous do hecky speech that he gave in selma was recorded by the sola police and then fell into the law enforcement hands which was actually what they thought at the time, the people in the civil rights movement fought. was the police making of the intrusions face of the fbi as their friends which relatively speaking the fbi agents on the ground. it's a complex period. you have a hostile political part of the fbi and a relatively friendly, crimefighting part of the fbi coexisting at a time when the movement is under constant danger, the various scattered movement throughout the south. c-span: "parting the waters," your first book was published in what your? >> guest: at the end of 1988. c-span: was the per code that you discussed? >> guest: 54 to 63. the year the brown decision, the year the supreme court unanimously said in effect their racial segregation and
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subornation is in conflict with the american constitution, kind of reading the challenge of the civil war period about slavery being in conflict with promise of equal citizenship. though that's 54, i'm going to 68 when that movement, built on that premise, largely dissolved. and it's the same year dr. king was killed. c-span: i have a better copy of "parting the waters." this is a paperback version. you won a pulitzer prize for this. how many hardback copies did you sell and how many of these paperbacks up to today? >> guest: i would have to talk to my publisher. only be a rough estimate of 100,000 heart attacks and 200 or maybe 300,000 paperbacks which it is peanuts for stephen king for a big six history book based on a subject that might make some people uncomfortable, but other people for me at least it's a great leveling transformation to hear.
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there's a lot of black heroes and white heroes. it's a cross-cultural drama. c-span: your credit -- i think it is an outfit called lyndhurst of chattanooga -- and the macarthur of chicago and the ford foundation as places that have given you money over the years; is the right? >> guest: yes. after "parting the waters" came out, because this book has taken nine years. the ford foundation gave me my first and only a research grant that i used to hire somebody for two years to help me transcribed interviews. lyndhurst and the macarthur foundation gave me just kind of sustenance grants because -- divided over nine years -- because i have to pay for all of my travel to the library and scattered places i have to do my research its expense of doing it by myself. c-span: have you made a living off of all of this? i mean is it possible? or did you have to do other
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things? >> guest: at the end of parting the waters i had to get to part-time jobs on the side because i didn't have these grants that i had no standing reputation. this time i didn't have to do much work on the side partly because we've had a frustrating effort to try to get "parting the waters" made into a film. and every once in awhile hollywood boy to bail me out with some money for an option the ultimately didn't pan out -- you know, to break my heart again trying to make a film. but i have managed to with my wife and by working keep our kids in school. c-span: what does your wife to? >> guest: she was a speechwriter to the mayor of baltimore and justin last january, last month, took a job as one of mrs. clinton's to speechwriters. so she moved down here into the eye of the new storm and is writing speeches for mrs. clinton. c-span: and you've had a special relationship with president over the years? >> guest: jury special relationship in a sense that we were roommates and partners in
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1972 presidential campaign in texas. we live together. and he brought his then a new girlfriend hillary. so we had a very close association then. i didn't see him for 20 years from 72 to 92 until he was elected president and called and said congratulations for your pulitzer in history. i would love to talk to you about how to preserve historical materials and what you've noticed from the presidential libraries you for tin. and on that basis we have talked a good bit while he's been president to renew our acquaintance ship after a 20 year hiatus. c-span: have you had any discussions with him about his whole race initiative? >> guest: absolutely. yes, i have. c-span: what do you recommend to him? >> guest: i think this is a great thing. i personally think from the work that i've done that our racial dialogue in america, our discourse is far behind hour objective reality and where we are; that if you study this period and you see how parochial, how limited, how much
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violence, how on a custom a lot of white people were even meeting simply from a different denomination or a different section of the country, there's -- ads in the newspaper were divided not only by race, but by sex; "help wanted, female," and jobs were -- you know, for women, were secretaries and teachers. we left it up a whole new reality, not to minimize the severe problems that still are here. but to me is lacking is our dialogue, is kind of the scarcity of universal voice is talking about what we have in common in america, speaking across these lines, which is what we have here. and, to me if these people could be confident and hope during the civil rights movement facing segregation, really apartheid in the south, and all kinds of maryland is and violence, we have to restore the sense of dialogue now because our problems, relatively speaking, i believe are much less.
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and we are -- this movement has lifted american values all around the world and miracles in south africa and singing "we shall overcome" when the berlin wall went down and forming the model for tiananmen square. we have a lot to be proud of as far as the way we have left the power of objective relations, stretched out ourselves to not just a white protestant country but our dialogue lags behind and i think that's what needs to be restored. we've a lot of ways and against our public purpose. c-span: did you ever meet mr. martin luther king? >> guest: never did. i grew up in atlanta, the same city he was in. i kind of noticed it. my father had a lot of black employees at the time, the dry cleaning plant. the only time i ever heard it mentioned was -- he had one of his favorite employees he had a bet on the atlanta crackers
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baseball game every day and sometimes my dad would take me to those games in the 50's and we would have to separate at ponce de leon ball park in orlando because peter had to go sit in the colored section. that's the only time i ever -- my dad would say i don't like this. but he wouldn't invite comment because i was like it was dangerous. there was nothing he could do about it. it was kind of ominous clouds but you know, you couldn't do anything about the weather. so i grew up in that atmosphere, which was quite common in the south. and not until birmingham really did it break through and occur to me that really could be something done about it on the strength of the courage of these people, many of whom -- you know, in birmingham they were girls and little kids. the or eight, nine, 10-years-old marching to jail and having the fire hoses turned on them. and that made a very powerful impression on me. but by the time i got caught up and interested in the, dr. king was dead. i went to college and he was killed before i finished
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college. c-span: where to go to school? >> guest: chapel hill north carolina. c-span: and is your father and mother still alive? >> guest: yes, they are still in atlanta. c-span: still in the business? >> guest: no comegys retired now -- c-span: and his business what kind of dry cleaning? >> guest: dry cleaning and laundry; had a lot of them all across the land, carriage cleaners. c-span: about your mom, what did she do? >> guest: she helped -- we all helped in the laundry. it was kind of a family business, and then she later went into real-estate a little bit. c-span: and you live now we're? >> guest: in baltimore maryland after living here in washington for a number of years. c-span: if we saw you in your environment where you're putting all this together and actually writing what would it look like? >> guest: it's a little cubbyhole in the rest of the turret of an old victorian house with files for all the way down through -- and the basement, fireproof files that go all over the place accumulated over these 16 years. but where i actually right is right up in the top of a trait
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that -- i would be claustrophobic. except i put into skylights that i look out and let in a lot of light. c-span: how much time you spend there? how long does it -- you know, do you have any idea how many hours it took you to write 1600 pumas? >> guest: absolutely none. but my discipline is that if i don't start at 5:00 in the morning and do what i call stewing for a while, then the disease can get away from me. if i start after i freakin' to the kids to school, i have to get going in the morning, sit for a certain number of hours a day. i can't start at five and going to the evening of the way i did my first started because i'm getting a little older. i don't have quite the same stamina. but i do -- i believe in routine because two esen moly this -- you know, this is a period here in 63 ka 65 for quote kotler of fired" where everything's happening at once. you know, freedom summer and vietnam and malcolm x and these things are happening at once. every time i shift -- michael is to allow the reader experience
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that smoothly to go from one world to another and every time i shift i have to get out a new batch of research materials and that sort of thing. and so i find that i really have to maintain a certain discipline to maintain and keep the concentration level. c-span: what do you write on? >> guest: computer. i started 20 years ago riding on a legal pad and moved to a typewriter. but to keep those footnotes -- by the way, because several hundred of the -- my books are long. i don't -- that several hundred of the pages that you are talking about in the length of these books, that includes the notes. and i did -- the computer to me is and valuable not just for editing but keeping track of the source notes that i think that it's vital that a subject like this to provide the readers. c-span: what did you do to get a sense of what all sounded like? did you watch any film, listen to audio, anything like that? >> guest: i did. a lot of sermons are preserved in unfortunately, much of the broadcast resources are not there and that's sad because this is -- as i said, you know,
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television footage of birmingham awakened me as a kid. it's hard to find that. you can't go in the library and look up film research from that period. after all, this is before videotape. this is back with film and a lot of that stuff is disintegrated and gone. occasionally people would make tapes of mass meetings, which is a great institution when it was kind of the engine of the civil rights movement when they had a meeting in a church they would -- it would be part religious ceremony, park rally, part information, part -- because they didn't have the newspapers of their own. occasionally there are tapes of mass meetings as i said, some of these surveillance tapes. c-span: let me -- and i'm going to ask you to keep it short if you can't because there's a lot of them. and i just want to get a flavor of who these people are, but just define what these folks are. i wrote a whole bunch down. bob moses? >> guest: bob moses was the leader of the southern voting rights movement in mississippi. a gentle philosophical
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character, he essentially the father of freedom summer, a very moral character, ultimately had a break down and then has since in the past ten years revived to a new career. c-span: where? >> guest: all of the country, teaching eighth graders how to do first-year algebra, which he says is the dividing line between where you have a chance in life or not much like the right to vote was in mississippi in the 60's. c-span: fred shuttle's worth. >> guest: firebrand birmingham preacher who personalized the duel with bill konar, the lieutenant invited dr. king to birmingham for the climactic showdown of 63. c-span: who was bull konar? >> guest: the police chief in the director of public safety and birmingham who kind of personified segregation in birmingham, the city allows most like k-town in south africa. c-span: and john lewis. >> guest: john lewis, young man grew up stuttering, preaching to chickens in rural
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alabama, went to college in ashbel, became a screen writer on one of the shock troops and the most devoted of king's followers on the students and is now a congressman from -- she's my mom and dad's, from the fifth district of atlanta. c-span: james bevel. >> guest: james bevel, john the baptist of the -- front of the john lewis' out of the national movement with his wife die and who was kind of face to all bones of the freedom rides coo kids in their early 20s to lead the freedom rides, then went on to recommend the use of children when the birmingham movement was suffocated. and later in testament the children who were bombed in birmingham in 1963, they really devised as their response to the bombing what became the selma voting rights movement to win the right to vote for minorities across the south. c-span. wachtel. >> guest: harry wachtel, dr. king's lawyer, one of the
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early corporate and merger lawyers in new york city whose conscience stirred him because his company owned some of the lunch counter places in the south to come and a volunteer his services to dr. king. and he became the only white fella and with his wife who went on to the nobel peace prize and devoted a career for the rest of his career, kind of a one of the lawyers who served dr. king in the movement. c-span: and you write about the nobel peace prize trip -- hopefully we can talk about it before -- stanley levenson. >> guest: there are too jewish lawyers from new york reserve dr. king. stanley much closer and earlier in the 50's -- harry cantelon later. he was really because of allegations about him in 1953, they hear that rosenberg trial and the first sort of thing, the fbi has evidence, claiming to have evidence that he was a soviet agent. the evidence is still secret almost 50 years later long after the sources and levinson died
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more than 20 years later. but ten years later in 1963, the allegations from 1953 that levin had been a soviet agent or a member of the communist party serving the soviet union in 1953 became the premise for the wiretap first on him coming and then when they never discovered any contact with the soviet contact, then they watch your top -- advocated wiretaps on dr. king and on bayard rustin and other lawyers, clarence jones, wachtel. all of the wiretaps became the information base for the persecution in the civil rights bill that were premised on contact with this one fellow, stanley loveless and. he's the best case of what i'm talking about, having this verbatim conversations refused the premise on which the wiretaps were based. in other words, it's mostly because of that. that is in the testimony of his friend that i am absolutely confident that he is in on some patriot of the american
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experience in the 20th century. c-span: not a communist? >> guest: not a communist. c-span: where is he now? >> guest: he died in the mid-1970s. c-span: clarence jones. >> guest: dr. king's bolack new york lawyer. in many respects the model for "guess who's coming to dinner." he grew up the sum of chauffeurs to the lippincott family and married the daughter of w.w. norton in the waldorf-astoria married a white lady 1950's was kind of an entertainment lawyer, very successful and converted a mant lease term of dr. king and became a mother of the devoted lawyers working for him. he took the letter from birmingham jail piece by piece on toilet paper and written around the margins of newspapers out of the birmingham jail when dr. king was writing it in a solitary, clarence visiting him, you know, as a lawyer. c-span: is that letter stowed away by the way in an archive?
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>> guest: not that part of it as far as i know i think it was thrown away. c-span: he mentioned earlier by your ruston. who is he? >> guest: the great troubadour of the early movement. krepp -- eight vagabond singing with leadbelly in the 30's to read he was a member of the communist party in the 30's. he was also gay at a time that wasn't even whispered about and was -- but the great student of nonviolence. traveled all over the world doing on violence. he was an early gandhian, then became a pacifist and was the architect of the march on washington. he was the administrator for it and made such an impression on the world when it happened that really his suspect background was all but forgiven. he became a kind of a respectable figure in the media circles toward the end of his career to get he's now dead.
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c-span: james forman. >> guest: james foreman, executive director of the student nonviolent coordinating committee of which bob moses was the primary operator then in mississippi. foreman was kind of the organizer who kept it together. and now he lives here in washington. later on when the students came in conflict with king, four men to some degree personified the student criticisms of martin luther king and other leaders as being preachers preoccupied with leaders and leadership and meeting presidency and that sort of thing. c-span: i could go on, but i want to ask about some -- it appeared to me as i read through it that you had given the vegetables versus other individuals. for instance, martin luther king versus ralph abernathy. maybe you don't look at it quite that way, but what was their relationship? >> guest: very, very close. no secrets from one another. but there was an undercurrent of jealousy from the abernathy because he had been with dr. king all along.
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he had an amazing hold over the audience. he was a very, get a gifted teacher, but he resented dr. king's sophistication and he was kind of star for status, as many black people were during that period to the point that he made incidents and became a burden for dr. king to carry. yvette the nobel peace prize ceremony come abernathy refused to get in the second limousine according to pravachol, when all of the nobel officials were lined up there and mortified not only dr. king but a lot of the people with him, so there were conflicts there. this is a very classical kind of ego conflict that the ralph abernathy wanted to be so sophisticated as dr. king. so there's a don quixote-snacho quality there. c-span: and when he sat in that chair right before he died and did this show they were angry why? >> guest: que was one of the first people close to dr. king to acknowledge the fact that he
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had had extramarital affairs, which is kind of an object of denial among many of the people around him. a woman even wrote about her relationship with dr. king. so the fact that there were extramarital affairs is no longer as sensitive to rate was seen coming from abernathy as a betrayal. c-span: elijah mohammed versus dhaka mix? >> guest: e elijah mohammed, the founder of the national islam -- or really the first major hit it -- claimed all of the doctrines of the white duffels and of a sectarian view of islam and a very domineering fund raising sacked of true believers which malcolm x was one until in this period he decided that there were a number of corruption's within it, as malcolm was always remaking himself, studying history, changing, turning himself inside out and he decided was corrupt,
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and religiously, but it was a true version at this time but financially it was fleecing its members and violent and using violence and that elijah mohammed was having affairs and producing children by his secretary. so it's corrupt in every sense that you find in the bible. and so, you have a violent struggle of malcolm knowing that he's marked for death for trying to reform the nation of islam. yet at the same time, america is awakening only to interest him as a figure about the races. so to me, it's a -- it's an astonishing trail to follow. malcolm being shot at in city after city and tracked by a desperate ploy is to save himself and yet come out on the stage at radcliffe or a predominantly white colleges and talk about race relations with his mind spinning, not talking about that. most of us if people were trying to shoot us that's all we would be talking about. c-span: who of all the people you write about are still alive
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the you've gotten the closest to? >> guest: well, -- my best friend from this period are people like julian bond who might known since the 60's, and john lewis and i met vernon jordan when he was registering voters back in the 60's but the one who made the biggest impression on me the first book because he was just an utterly inspirational literacy teacher that invented the methods that i think still being steadied around the world for teaching adult literacy and i would say in early february a few weeks ago in chicago she was the leader in the freedom right and came down from the south, a beauty queen from chicago and early winter of the going to jail movement that i think basically provided a lot of the doctrine to the early student
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movement right on through the freedom rides and being beaten up into jail she had her first baby in jail almost and then in birmingham the children tragically left her. he was a genius and had all of these ideas right up to selma that was their idea on the night before he gave the speech proposing the settlement in montgomery march in the history so both a heroin and unsung hero this is like going through a war there are a lot of damage to people from it and i would say probably she's the one at meijer in closest. jay edgar hoover versus robert f. kennedy. >> guest: that is a shakespearean wrestling match. there is no way to simplify
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that. he was a scales bureaucrat and in some degree a bully. he would try to get his way but people that stood up to him could back him off. bobby kennedy never did, and i think this is a yonder not mature bobby kennedy that feels heavily having to defend his brother, the president, jack kennedy who was vulnerable because he was having affairs with people in the mafia bobby kennedy compromised him in this to try to protect the position in the south and the alliance with martin luther king. ultimately i believe hoover
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without saying for two skilled bureaucrats for that they say okay i told you over the year keep down the scandal against your brother that i am very concerned about martin luther king we need this wiretap and ultimately he found that wiretap knowing he was surrendering with any pretense of controlling jay edgar hoover so it's a very complex political wrestling match. c-span: how did they use the wiretaps and what did they learn through them about martin luther king and the group? >> guest: the is the wiretaps primarily for the advanced notice of kings travel plans. hello, i'm flying to chicago. i will be at the such and such hotel. i'm flying to new york. c-span: where did the post caps? >> guest: they put them on his home. c-span: where? atlanta? >> guest: they put them in his office both in atlanta and new york. hoover, being a bureaucrat and include a very clever phrase in
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their permission to mount technical surveillance -- that is wiretaps -- on dr. king's home office and any home to which he may move. and they interpreted that to me in a hotel room. so anyplace he went there was a blanket of already. now the use of advanced knowledge to have a chance to go in and in plant microphones and all of the hotel, for bobby kennedy didn't give authority. hoover just assumed he had that authority and one of the and there is much of the american law. and they would use that to intercept not just what he said on the phone but what he would say when he wasn't on the phone or in bed or when he's arguing. and they used the intercept essentially to do anything they could, either to poison people's opinion of king or to present petitions against one another. in other words, he would try to ingratiate himself with president johnson if he heard bobby kennedy something critical of president johnson through king. in other words, this was hoover's job was basically to
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ingratiate himself with johnson to punish bobby kennedy, whom she didn't like and to punish king whenever he could. c-span: by the way, did you listen to the johnson takes? >> guest: yes. that's a whole -- c-span: so you could hear all of those? >> guest: you can hear those. the john thune defeat could johnson tapes were wonderful. they corroborate a lot of what's in a declassified meetings on vietnam and in some of the files, but there's no substitute for actually hearing the tapes. and i quote from a number of them here. c-span: what is the trilogy? >> guest: the trilogy? c-span: money, loyalty, sex. >> guest: money, loyalty -- that became the short hand once bobby -- once dr. king became aware as i said, juneau, a lot of times they thought the thing store being done to them, a hostile things that were being done to them by the police were being done by segregation molest police force, but once they became aware that is the fbi, they had these meetings and that
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-- jay edgar hoover called him the most notorious liar in the country and so forth. the had staff meetings what are our vulnerabilities here? and dr. king said it's not the money. in fact when he died, he was only worth about $20,000 died in intestate. he never had much money. he gave away what he needed. he raised an enormous amount of money but gave it away, and said it's not communism. i take people for what they are. i'm for to spiritual to be a communist leader to i reject communism. but i'm for all marble. there may be a few things of women. so, of the trilogy he admitted to his -- of course some of his staff actually knew this very well -- but he admitted to harry wachtel for example was very painful for him to admit to some of the aids that they were not privy to his private life that was more along the streets of the trilogy he admitted only that he was vulnerable to blackmail which is the issue of having extramarital affairs.
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c-span: you add up the women problems with elijah mohammed and john kennedy and i -- i don't need to go through the whole list, it comes that -- i mean there's a lot in your book. i mean, how -- what impact did relations with women on this whole movement during these periods? >> guest: what never became a public issue peaden tattnall the mexican -- eisel publicity around elijah mohammed's illegitimate children at his hope of salvation, that what puncture respect among these zealots who followed elijah mohammed and -- to the point of falling to kill for him, but he couldn't get it publicized, partly because people were afraid of the muslims and partly because they were freed of a libel suit. so it was a private prison and was used mostly for black male behind the scenes. it never became a public issue. you know, hoover would -- to first the five agents offered the material from the king bugging is all around, and all over the place but only under the condition of the fbi could never be identified as the source.
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and in that day and age, nobody wanted to take that leap into people's private lives without you know, saying live just landed, or a bird he told me they have a source. nowadays maybe we would figure out a way to get around that, but in those days it that the political maneuvering around these six issues were confined to a propaganda. jay edgar hoover would send his agents to a university. we hear your thinking of getting an honorary doctorate to dr. king to get a dose whisper in your year and the despite that and sent to the vatican to the pope don't see martin luther king. so it was a kind of private -- send them to the hill, trying to -- reputations behind the scenes. c-span: what was the story, and at what point was it that martin luther king wanted to come meet with lyndon johnson when he was president and they went through this whole song and dance with vice president humphrey? what was that all about? >> guest: i was about the mississippi freedom democratic party. in the summer of 1964 there was a challenge delegation out of mississippi that was mostly black, essentially saying they don't allow us to vote. we want to vote.
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and the democratic party of mississippi is endorsing the republican candidate anyway. they are not loyal democrats. we want to be seated. and president johnson -- it's an amazing story, and it's been argued in the turning point of the movement. whether or not you see fannie lou hamer and the sharecroppers were blocked as the official democrats of mississippi or whether you see to the regular democrats headed by the governor, who were voting for barry goldwater. and johnson -- was a terrible -- he's kind of like lincoln in a way -- are you for slavery or are you not? because he's trying to keep the border states in line. he was terrified that if he ceded the black delegation that the white democrats from kentucky and tennessee and the other border states would walk out, and that's what -- he was pretending that he didn't have anything to do with it, but he was consumed by no other issue, and putting that together is an amazing story -- or chapter, i think, in our american history about the sensitivity of this issue at this time. c-span: but when he came up to
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the white house, he didn't have a meeting scheduled with lyndon johnson and he was supposed to meet with hubert humphrey. >> guest: right. c-span: and there was a lot of maneuvering around. >> guest: i'm sorry. you're talking about -- this is at selma. this is at sali in february of 1965. dr. king can out of jail in sali and announced in depression, he came out of jail and his aides said you can't just come out of jail. you have to have a purpose for coming out of jail. and he said i'm tired. i'm depressed. i've been in jail. he won the nobel prize and he's still in jail in selma on the right to vote. and the aids simply told dr. king you've got to say you had a purpose. let's say that you're coming out of jail to meet with the president. and that infuriated lyndon johnson because he said nobody in the expense of here in the middle of a controversy. i'm trying to run the country. but on the matter and, he didn't want to say i won't meet with dr. martin luther king partly because he shared the goal of cutting the voting rights bill.
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so with the work of was kind of an ego where they said dr. king was officially coming up to meet with the vice president, but they planned to have the president spontaneously call over there and say since you're here what don't you come over and talk to me? so there was a way of dancing around the ego and the political sensitivities on the race issue in this period. c-span: you also told a story about richard russell and lyndon johnson and the warren commission. >> guest: there were lots of those. i have one of the first photographs there as president johnson with his knows about this far away from richard russell, right after he becomes president, telling him you know, i love you. i don't know the exact quote, but you're like a father to me. but i want to give you warning i'm going to pass this civil rights bill. you are my dearest friend but i will run you down if i have to do it and i just wanted you to know that in advance. then he also tricked into going on the warren commission with just a few days of that because russell did not -- as a premier southerners -- he didn't want to sit on the commission headed by
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earl warren who was the architect of the brown decision outlawing segregation in the south. and johnson just would not take no for an answer, district him, maneuvered him on there and then basically said, you know, you are my momma, you are my daddy, you are everything else. you are darn well going to go on that commission because i'm going to make you. and he just pleaded and controlled and told him that he was going to be on there. c-span: the suicide package. what was it? >> guest: it was a sample of the intercepted by gangs of dr. king's private life, together with an extremely hostile and on this note saying you are fraud and your evil that we will expose you before the world if you don't take a certain act within 35 days, in other words, before -- essentially before he accepted the nobel prize. and it was meant to be that dr. king was to kill himself. and it became known as the suicide package because it was warning him that he was under the threat of exposure, and that's when they really did figure out he was the fbi because they could tell the
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tapes which were garbled, but you could hear -- you could hear what was going on, were in different cities. so they knew no police agency would have access to a whole bunch of different cities. they knew was the fbi added that it was essentially you're own government telling you to commit suicide, which is -- c-span: with the fbi recess? >> guest: absolutely. absolutely. in a higher political regions. see, i think there's a very -- i have some fbi characters in here that our heroes, but most people -- c-span: like? give me a -- >> guest: like joe sullivan. the man who sold several of the cases down in st. augustine, florida, which is one of the unsung stories of the period. and then he went over to mississippi. he was the model for inspector erskine, and the long-running fbi series. he was a no-nonsense copper. and like most fbi agents, they don't go in there with an envisioned to do political work,
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which means listening to your phones and planning propaganda and going around calling into people's private lives. they doing to solve cases. so you have a delicious or a painful conflict running in this era. you have the most spectacular political misuse of the fbi going on at the same time the fbi is trying to solve new kinds of crime and confronting the plan down in the south at the time when they were almost at will committing to these crimes all through this 63-65 period. so in the same institution, you have people who are becoming new kinds of heroes and old kind of corruption's inside the fbi. c-span: tell us more -- or give us kind of a profile on martin luther king. how tall was he? how old was he during this period? was he married? did he have children? where did he go to school? all those kind of things. >> guest: she's yanna. he was killed at 39. he never reached his 40th birthday. so in this period 63 to 65
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comegys 34 to 36-years-old, a very, very young man, boyish looking, well-educated, has his wife, coretta, and for children caught the young guest who were quite young, the youngest boreman 63, born in birmingham. so dexter irca the youngest is just an infant during this period. this is a period when dr. king is most political, in the sense that in the early your workout in the parting of the waters come he's getting drawn into other people's movements because he's an orator, and he would go help out. the bus boycott wasn't his idea. the freedom rides and the sit-ins certainly weren't his idea to give he would get called in to these meetings. but by 1963 where we start here, he's right and that the south is hardened against segregation and that the moment in history might fit without implementing something into history that will resist that recession, that
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retrograde trend. and he takes a huge risk to the he says i'm going to have my own movement. i'm going to risk everything. first in birmingham to try to crack segregation and then later in selma, where we ending 65, after the long year of 64 where he is lobbying and submitting to jail when st. augustine to try to keep pressure on to pass the '64 civil rights act. then he goes straight from there to sell much of another huge risk for the right to vote which is different. so here you see not just the spiritual or the prophetic site of king as a spokesman for the test of american values, but a very consciously political king, trying to maneuver with the president and maneuver between parties, use the media, use the press, and deal with a divided movement, his rivals, and allies like roy wilkins with the naacp and elsewhere. so this is king at the senate of the movement's political impact on america, when the race issue really has to country -- you know, the country's attention.
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c-span: cow that was his womanizing? >> guest: i don't know for 100% sure. he had a number of long-term affairs, people very, very loyal to him, who 03 period of years on the road. and i know -- c-span: during this time period? >> guest: during this time period. c-span: to the names coming to this -- >> guest: not here. it's more personal later on and i still -- i talked to a number of those people and, of course, my main question is how did his reconcile this with his career? he wrestled with it. he preached about it in general that evil is something very close to you and you can't overcome it by trying to stand out, by trying to repress it. you overcome it by dedicating it -- yourself to something higher. she was constantly using the analogy of ulysses and the sirens on the scylla and
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charybdis but it didn't work to stuff wax in your years and try to repress evil, you had to sing a sweeter music and then you could -- slither was part of him there was always reproaching himself for being able to get of women, especially ones he knew that it could hurt that i've met, that black male could really severely damaged people who really believed in him, that would be disillusioned. and in many respects, his sermons sound like he's almost punishing himself to do penance by taking greater risks. so i think -- i never tried to argue that there's no relationship between one's private life and once public life. but i think it's really very, very complicated exactly what that relationship and in many respects there are a lot of signs that he used his private feelings and regarded them as such to drive his public mission. c-span: how did he get a nobel peace prize? >> guest: he got a nobel peace prize in 1964, largely on the
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strength of the world recognition for the huge breakthrough in birmingham that spread the demonstrations across the country come on -- after the children, what changed me -- and got the civil-rights bill introduced by president kennedy. then he had the i have a dream speech and had the political skill working with president johnson to get it passed in 64 and the nobel prize was the centrally and recognition for that series of defense that really changed american politics forever. what the legal standard was going to be. c-span: what happened on the trip to get it? >> guest: more bugs. lots of misbehavior. this time not by dr. king because coretta was living with him if for no other reason but there was just a lot of ego jockeying and wild partying and chasing women around through the rooms the need for much mary met
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inside the fbi. c-span: was the public aware of it than? >> guest: no, the public was never aware. c-span: argue the first one to write about this? >> guest: i know, other people have written about various parts of it. i am the first person, i think, to write about this -- i think the distressing personal ego conflict with ralph abernathy to the degree that was, and andy young told me that he thought the estrangement with abernathy was a money. he wanted have the money from the nobel peace prize and he called a4a partners and all this and it really kind of choked the relationship. he said that he thought this was the more painful to dr. king than anything. jay edgar hoover might do to him. so there's a lot of internal cost to this thing. somebody from the movement, coming up at a time when black people themselves considered themselves damage. their humor was a lot of jokes at the expense of other
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creatures. there was a lot of damaged psyche here and they would recognize that come in and yet they still have to try to take responsibility for being leaders to america about what america's own values were. it is a very complex period. c-span: there's a picture in the book of the entire group that went over there -- to norway. >> guest: you will see harry wachtel and his life at the back of the rest -- i mean by a lot of them were there and are familiar faces. c-span: and then when they came back after the event over there, there was a dinner that they tried to go in to gather in atlanta. what happened? >> guest: terrie controversy ll at because of land that got its first nobel prize winner, but it's still -- it's not completely segregated, largely segregated, and the business communities and the political communities didn't have much to do with one another, and the mayor of the land, ralph mcgill, the publisher of the atlanta constitution, wanted to have a dinner honoring -- and some religious figures, the rabbi and the archbishop wanted to have a
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dinner honoring dr. king. but the official atlanta where i grew up i once wrote that at atlanta's the only place where the leadership figures were called openly the power structure. they had a hard time embracing this and there was tremendous conflict because there were a lot of people who didn't want to honor him. nobel prize or not. because he was black. finally erupted into publicity in "the new york times" and shame the land at into having this dinner right when dr. king is going to sell that. he comes back from the nobel prize saying this is a great -- the highest international word for peace, but i've got to go to selma and i've got to go back to the valley. there was a tremendous drive from dr. king to go downward, and of course that's, you know not to resist on his laurels. and i think to some degree that was the guilty had. and the people wanted him to go to on every dinners and bask in the nobel prize and do anything
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else. but within three weeks he said i've got a lot to go back to the valley. he's in jail in selma. and he went back down to see the right to vote. so this strong driving him really dominates the latter part of his life. where i'm going to finish here in the third volume, which ultimately ends up of course you know, was assassinated in the campaign among garbage workers in memphis. c-span: in the end, by the way, how did malcolm x died? what was the scene? >> guest: malcolm x died simultaneously by the dropping out of bob moses. in february 65, the beginning of the american ground troops in viet nam and this selma breakthrough, malcolm x is shot down by members of elijah mohammed's temple in newark. it's an embarrassment to me and the american legal system that two men who had absolutely nothing to do with it served over 20 years. they were convicted elsewhere. only one of the actual killer served time; for never coretta ever identified but never tried. and to people that were pretty clearly not there and i think their legal system knew or not
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they're served and convicted and served time anyway. c-span: how did all that happened? >> guest: it's hard to call back at how marginal the muslims were in this purpose. there were like unspeakable almost and i think basically the legal system just wanted to get somebody in jail and be done with it. and then when evidence surfaced that these people didn't have anything to do with it, nobody wanted to reopen the whole can of worms. there was all kind of surveillance evidence. there was evidence the police and the fbi knew malcolm was being tracked and tried to be killed, and they didn't want any of that to come out. so basically they didn't want to open it at all. c-span: what's new in the book that never has been written about before, what areas? >> guest: i think most of the stuff about malcolm's three years -- last three years -- is new. that's why there's more of that in the book than i thought. that, plus the fact that i think malcolm's leader -- islamic america is now very large, and comes out of malcolm's reform and it occurred while most of us, the preoccupied with louis
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franken, who represented one out of every 200 african-american muslims in this country. most of them are legitimate muslims, sunni muslims. so that -- all of malcolm's x last three years are not covered in the autobiography. the ins and outs of what he's trying to do, trying to stay alive, the fbi, what louis inouye, the plots against him. c-span: how long was he when he was killed? >> guest: she was 39 just like dr. king to read both of them were killed at 39. neither of them live to reach their 40th birthday. c-span: how many copies of his autobiography were sold? >> guest: it's been translated into 20 languages. i think 15 million. i mean his autobiography really creative malcolm x. i put him here in this because -- she's an extraordinary figure and he had cultural impact. but he didn't have that much historical impact. first of all, he's a fugitive. she's out of the country for a lot of this period. we read a lot backwards into it, that's not -- she was not that
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big of a figure. lyndon johnson couldn't even pronounce his name cockled muslim ex. it didn't know who he was. the autobiography that cannot nine months after he was killed, towards the end of 1965, raised his profile dramatically. and the next year when black power was pronounced and he was -- as a new doctrine -- and he was kind of adopted as the patron saint of political power, she became more significant in death than he was in life as a political the influence. c-span: how what are you now? >> guest: and 51. c-span: one is the next book do? this is 1998. >> guest: well, i hesitate to make predictions, because so many of them have been long, but i don't think this will take nine years. i think it'll take three or four more years to get the third volume of the trilogy, which is called at canon's edge. it's kind of completing my three titles based out of the book of exodus, parting the waters, this one pillar of fire and then at cannes and savage, you know, evo
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kinkos is, trying to -- getting up to look over it into canaan, but he's not allowed to go. kind of like -- in that part of american history got to overlook over into a new land of freedom and was lifted up, i think that you never get quite there. c-span: in all this time you've been doing this, what was her biggest reward besides the sale of the book? >> guest: meeting the people and continuing exposure to people who stretch themselves and are rewarded by what -- find this kind of freedom of the cross these lines is really at the bottom of what our -- all people are created equal and a lot of our religious doctrines and dhaka continuing coretta and less mining of treasured people and ideas and new subjects, like rabbi heschel, you know, who's in this volume. i never would have known that dr. king would have had such a close association with a hassidic orthodox rabbi from
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warsaw, and yet to track it and i have to know more about heschel, the lighting is one of the great figures of the 20 of century in his own right, and then more about chu jaudaism commesso your rolled backwards. it's a continuing -- and the same on malcolm x, a continuing opening of new was a vacation from the freedom of that period. c-span: in the end who is your favorite sports leader? >> guest: dr. king. c-span: and what do you think of him? >> guest: i admire him now more than i did when i started coming and what i started with ase -- and i knew he was part of this movement and that had affected me and i kind of admire him that i thought maybe he was just a baptist preacher who got carried away with turning the ever cheek. c-span: who is a pious you after you get to know them more? >> guest: in this story? most of -- people in congress. barry goldwater's republican party, which turned from the party of lincoln into the party of the white south on a dime in one year in 1964. and i hope that doesn't stay, because i know all kinds of republicans who like to get the
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party of lincoln back; southern sheriffs and politicians. c-span: j.b. stoner? >> guest: j.b. stoner. yes. welcome if you're talking about somebody who makes religion into an instrument of hatred like j.b. stoner, there are plenty of those. they are near the top of the list. c-span: here is the book. second in the three volume series by taylor branch. this one is called "pillar of fire america in the king years 1963-1965." thank you. >> guest: thank you, brian.
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you are watching book tv on c-span2. tonight we are at the national press club in washington, d.c. for their annual authors night and we are pleased to be joined here by robert merry who is the author of "where they stand the american presidents in the eyes of voters and historians." mr. merry, do we tend to like our presidents? >> i think the american people love their presidents. they love the presidency. but when they have a president that has not succeeded to the judge a failure, they vary on sentimentally cast them aside and that is our system to read that is what they were invited to do by the founders and by the constitution. >> do we have a short patience? >> we understand the constitution gave them hiring and firing authority over these guys every four years. so that briefs patients. if it was six years or eight years there would be a lot of inpatients in the directorate. for years as a pretty good time
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frame so they can feel pretty comfortable making a judgment. estimate how much control do presidents have over their own destinies and over what happens during their administrations? >> this book has a lot. a successful president may have a lot of luck but by and large it comes from his decision making and failures may have had problems that beset them but nevertheless the failures emerge from their decision making. so i believe that they basically are the commandments of their own destiny. ..

Book TV
CSPAN January 21, 2013 2:00pm-3:00pm EST

Taylor Branch Education. (2008) Taylor Branch ('Pillar of Fire').

TOPIC FREQUENCY Dr. King 23, Fbi 16, Birmingham 15, Johnson 10, Atlanta 9, Selma 9, Malcolm 8, Martin Luther King 7, Elijah Mohammed 7, America 7, Bobby Kennedy 6, Lyndon Johnson 5, Us 5, Jay Edgar Hoover 5, Mississippi 4, Ralph Abernathy 4, John Lewis 4, Chicago 4, Washington 4, New York 3
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